Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Fred Thompson Wins A Wisconsin Endorsement ... Kinda

Owen Robinson's "endorsement" of Fed Thompson is one of the strangest things I've read in a while. Endorsements tend to be all about the recipient -- a full column devoted to singing the praises of Candidate X with maybe a graf or two criticizing the opposition. Robinson is exactly the opposite. The whole thing runs 814 words, only 125 of which are spent boosting Thompson's cause. And, um, this is the best case that Robinson can make for his man:

The last serious GOP contender, and the one for whom I will be voting, is former Senator Fred Thompson. Thompson is right on almost all of the issues about which I care. His vote for McCain-Feingold is bothersome, but like I said before, everyone has flaws. His strong support of federalism is refreshing and his refusal to be packaged by the media is welcome.

The biggest gripe about Thompson is the perception that he is lazy. Frankly, I’m ready for a president who actually has a life that doesn’t involve running for office. If he wants to have an easy day on the campaign trail and read a book, I can relate to that.

Elections are about choices. I choose Fred Thompson - for now.

Bare in mind this comes at the very end of the endorsement. Readers basically have to wade their way through Robinson's rationale for not voting for eight other candidates before we get this less than stellar pitch for Fred.

First of all, calling Thompson a "serious" candidate is no light statement, especially considering Thompson is now polling about evenly with Ron Paul in Iowa and whom Robinson doesn't even bother to discuss. Paul has no chance of winning the GOP nomination, but he also has millions of more dollars in his campaign war chest than Thompson. If Paul isn't even worthy of mentioning, even while the Texas congressman's poll number gave steadily increased while Thompson's have declined, than calling Fred "serious" doesn't seem to add up.

Robinson gives his audience two reasons why they should vote for Thompson: the first is that he is "right on almost all of the issues about which I care." Great, but there's no mention of what these issues are. Regular readers of Robinson's will have a general idea what these issues are, but endorsements aren't supposed to be about the authors -- they're supposed to be about the candidate.

Then there's this bizarre statement about Thompson refusing to be packaged by the media. We are talking about the same person here? The actor guy, right? The guys who's in this race because he's been packaged by the media as a character actor who specializes in authority figures? Does anyone honestly believe Thompson would have been recruited to run for the White House had he only been a lobbyist and not had been on Law & Order these last few seasons?

Moving on we find the "In Defense of Lethargy" paragraph ... Robinson may actually have a broader point about the absurd demands the public puts on candidates during the primaries, but in Thompson's case this just doesn't seem to ring true. I don't know if Thompson is unhealthy, lazy or just doesn't like mingling with the hoi paloi (in which case he's an elitist), but if a guy can't find the motivation to get up and ask for someone's vote, why should voters believe he's going to suddenly find the motivation to, say, come to the rescue of a major American coastal city that finds itself underwater following a catastrophic hurricane?

And don't give me that bullshit about leadership skills kicking in during a time of crisis, etc. ... That's not how it works. If you want my vote -- of you want me to allow you to have command during a time of crisis -- you have to demonstrate to me that you can handle leadership during the normal lulls in life.

Finally, Robinson qualifies his entire column by tacking on "for now" as a coda to the piece, thus rendering the editorial provisional. At best it suggests a lack of confidence with the choice; at worst it looks like Robinson hedging his bets, almost preparing himself for the inevitable flip-flop somewhere down the line.

If Robinson's endorsement is indicative of the enthusiasm of Republican party activists then the GOP is screwed this year.

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